West Virginia First

I’ll put West Virginia first. Not myself, not my party, and not out of state special interest groups. West Virginia will come first.

I’ll go to Charleston with strong convictions and an open mind. And I will never forget that the only people I work for are right here at home.

I’ll be a voice for the working men and women of the Ohio Valley. I’ll be a voice for teachers, the trades, for law enforcement, and for all working families.

I’ll work across the aisle to make our state more attractive to businesses. We can’t overtax and over-regulate, but we must make sure that everyone pays their fair share.

We have to make taking care of our own people our priority. We must put West Virginia first. I’ll do just that.

Cleaning Up Corruption in Charleston

Corruption has reached an all-time high in Charleston and it seems to be getting worse each day. There are several reasons for this, including a void in leadership at the top levels of state government. Whether it’s the Supreme Court scandal, the DHHR paying $1 million for an empty building, or the failure to help flood victims despite there being $150 million in federal funds available, there’s no end in sight. And, unfortunately, it appears as if there’s more bad news on the way.

What can be done to address this crisis of corruption? First, our state legislators should not be able go to Charleston and get rich. But, shockingly, that’s exactly what existing law permits and some have taken advantage of this loophole. Legislators are permitted to profit from state contracts, and the statute that authorizes it is at the top of my list to eliminate. In addition, I’ll get rid of all other loopholes that permit state legislators to line their own pockets.

I’ll put a stop to political cronyism. It’s rampant. I’ve seen it, and I prosecuted it when I was the United States Attorney, but more must be done. I’ll create the State Inspector General’s Office, which will have the authority to investigate and prosecute government fraud, waste and abuse.  It will pay for itself, increase accountability and help restore the public’s trust in government.  It will be the people’s watchdog, independent of the legislature.

I’ll also ensure that taxpayers know how every dollar is spent. You deserve to know, and I’ll open the curtains and shine a bright light on how money is being spent by all three branches of government.

It’s clear that we need someone in the State Senate with a background as a federal prosecutor to lead this fight, someone who has prosecuted state officials for corruption and has sent them to prison. That person is me, and I’ll use my experience, background and skills to clean up the mess and put out the fires that are burning in Charleston.

Fighting Back Against Opioids

West Virginia needs an Addiction Action Plan to tackle the opioid crisis from all angles, including enforcement, treatment, prevention, recovery and re-entry. We also need a drug czar – a cabinet-level Executive Director - who would report directly to the Governor and lead our Drug Control Policy Office. The Executive Director must work closely with leaders of public health, public safety and corrections to ensure a unified approach to the issue and to avoid duplication of efforts.  The Executive Director would also assist in the development and passage of meaningful legislation regarding issues of substance abuse and serve as a legislative liaison on these issues.

I will also advocate for the creation of the Governor's Drug Policy Advisory Council, a small group that would be created by the Governor and include experts from the fields of enforcement, treatment, prevention and recovery.  The Governor could also include representatives from various governmental agencies on the Council, such as the DHHR, the Attorney General's Office, or the State Legislature.

Here's a summary of what I would do to enhance our efforts in some of the most important areas:

Enforcement:  I’ll support our drug task forces with the resources they need to protect our borders and to stop the flow of heroin and fentanyl coming into West Virginia. We’ll take a data-driven approach, working more closely with our federal partners, and do a better job of collecting and analyzing data about drug trafficking trends. We’ll also implement a statewide overdose mapping tool and warning system.

Prevention: I’ll lead a statewide, trauma-informed approach to prevention, much like they’re doing in the City of Martinsburg. Using the ACE Study (Read the Study), we can identify children who need counseling and mental health resources before they consider turning to drugs to numb the pain in their lives.

Treatment: I’ll help to ensure that we have enough treatment beds so that people get the help they need right here at home. Too many people are forced to leave the state for help or to go without treatment at all. Let’s tap into all available resources – especially federal resources – to provide sufficient treatment for all West Virginians who need it.
more beds are needed, as we have too many people leaving the state for help or going without treatment.  West Virginia has made a good start with the Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention and Recovery Fund (Learn More), but we need to expand it for more resources.

Recovery:  In West Virginia, we have thousands of people in recovery from addiction. The fight to stay sober is incredibly difficult and those who are in the fight need resources to support their long-term recovery. I’ll work to enhance what’s available and make sure everyone in the Northern Panhandle has what they need to maintain their sobriety.
West Virginians may not realize the lack of resources available to support long term recovery. A private/public partnership like Recovery Point WV (Learn More) is an excellent model.

Re-entry:  Once released, drug offenders must find employment and housing. If they don’t, the likelihood them of reoffending and returning to prison is much greater, thus costing taxpayers even more to pay for incarceration.  I’ll help to make sure that non-violent citizens who have paid their debt to society have what they need to get their lives back on track.
Once released, drug offenders need to find employment and housing. If we don’t help, they’ll reoffend and return to prison, costing taxpayers even more.  We will restructure the Second Chance for Employment Act (Learn More) to help more non-violent citizens who have paid their debt to our society and remained clean, to apply for the program to get their lives on track.

Stimulate the Economy

West Virginia is beginning to rebound, but the state is still 23,000 jobs short of its peak in 2012.  West Virginia has had the next to worst job recovery from the Great Recession. We have the 4th highest unemployment rate, plus there are 4,000 fewer construction jobs than there were in December 2007.

I’ll invest in West Virginians and provide training that leads to living wage jobs. Businesses in our region have jobs that can’t be filled because workers lack the necessary skills. I’ll fix that.

I’ll take care of the businesses that are already here, and work to bring new companies to the state.

I’ll also eliminate the state tax on Social Security benefits so that older West Virginians have more money in their pockets, and thus more to spend with local business

Close Tax Loopholes for Out of State Special Interests

I’ll stand up for West Virginians, protecting them while making sure that big corporations pay their fair share of taxes. I’m tired of seeing out-of-state special interests get all the breaks while those of us who have lived and worked here all our lives continued to get overlooked.

The late, great Senator Robert C. Byrd, who recommended me to be United States Attorney, had this to say about West Virginia:

"It is a state whose rich resources have been largely owned and exploited by outside interests. Absentee owners, while living outside the state, wrested from the West Virginia earth the wealth that made them rich – rich from the toil and sweat and blood and tears of the people in the hill country who worked out their lives, all to often, for a pittance."

Let’s change this. Let’s stop the exploitation and take care of ourselves for once. Let’s put West Virginia first.


Paid for by Ihlenfeld for Senate